COLUMBUS – As a small Ohio town grapples with drinking water poisoned by lead, some in Ohio’s congressional delegation say a new law is needed to better address lead contamination.
Water samples from five homes in Sebring tested high for lead last month, reportedly nearly five months after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and city leaders were aware of the contamination. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is drafting legislation that would direct the federal EPA to automatically alert the public in contamination cases if local or state officials fail to do so within 15 days.
Brown contended that people shouldn’t be left in the dark.
“No more arguing about whose responsibility it is while families continue drinking water that we know is not safe, no more finger-pointing after the fact,” he said. “Our bill will lay down a marker that, when there’s a problem with the water, people have a right to know.”
On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and colleagues from Michigan introduced the Safe Drinking Water Improved Compliance Awareness Act. It also would require prompt notification when lead concentrations in drinking water are above federal requirements.
Brown’s legislation would require that communities have contingency plans for clean water and to fix any contamination problem within six months. With an estimated 4 million American households with children exposed to high levels of lead, he said it isn’t enough to just react.
“As we work to respond to the needs in Sebring and Flint, we should remember this problem stretches far beyond water,” he said. “Too many children are exposed to lead through paint in older homes, and even through dirt in their backyards.”
Meanwhile, an effort to provide relief to Flint stalled on Thursday in the Senate when Republicans refused to attach an emergency aid package to an energy bill. It would have authorized up to $600 million to address that city’s water crisis.
The text of the bill co-sponsored by Ryan is online at upton.house.gov.